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Go Egypt!
Go Egypt!
With superstar forward Mido injured and captain Ahmed Hassan suspended, it didn’t look so good for Egypt’s opening African Nations Cup match tonight in Ghana. But within 20 minutes, Hosni Abd Rabou and Mohamed Zidan put the defending champions nicely ahead of Cameroon by two. The amazing Zidan scored another goal at the end of the half, and Abd Rabou found the net again in the second, giving Egypt a convincing 4-2 victory. The boys at my gym in Cairo were letting off roaring cheers wit
Wednesday, January 23,2008 02:08
by Scott MacLeod Time-Blog.com

With superstar forward Mido injured and captain Ahmed Hassan suspended, it didn"t look so good for Egypt"s opening African Nations Cup match tonight in Ghana. But within 20 minutes, Hosni Abd Rabou and Mohamed Zidan put the defending champions nicely ahead of Cameroon by two. The amazing Zidan scored another goal at the end of the half, and Abd Rabou found the net again in the second, giving Egypt a convincing 4-2 victory. The boys at my gym in Cairo were letting off roaring cheers with every Egyptian goal.

Finally, some good news in Egypt. The country has seemed unusually adrift lately. On the international front, where Egypt is a longtime leader in the Arab world, relations with the U.S. have nosedived. Already smarting from the Bush administration"s democracy demands, President Mubarak"s government is now annoyed that Congress is trying to block $100 million in aid claiming that he is not doing enough to stop gun smuggling into the Palestinian territories. Egypt"s relations with Europe are normally smoother, but the government this week angrily postponed a meeting with senior E.U. officials after the European parliament condemnned Egypt"s human rights record.

As the condemnation suggests, the domestic scene is not looking good. Labor strikes are multiplying. The poorest Egyptians--most of the population--are simmering over higher prices for water and electricity and a shortage of cheap bread in the market. The regime has been enforcing a new crackdown on dissent, arresting editors, bloggers and especially activists from the Muslim Brotherhood. This week 29 Brotherhood leaders were rounded up after the group went ahead with demonstrations in Alexandria in protest against Israel"s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

There were disturbing scenes at Egypt"s Rafah border crossing with Gaza today. Palestinian protesters managed to break through the border fence, as Egyptian police fired in to the air to prevent the Palestinians from pouring into Egypt to escape the blockade. AP quoted the demonstrators chanting, "Mubarak, you are a coward!" The incident reflects Egypt"s worst nightmare about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: that worsening conditions in Gaza--now controlled by Hamas, which invited the blockade by launching attacks against Israel--will cause a spillover into Egypt. Not only a spillover of refugees, which would be a humiliating indication that Egypt"s 1979 peace treaty with Israel has not benefitted the Palestinians very much. But also in terms of politics, giving Mubarak"s Islamist, Nasserist and liberal opponents a legitimate and passionate cause to take into the streets to agitate against the regime.

After the Egyptian football heroes scored their goals tonight, the squad members prostrated themselves on the field for a nanosecond in the Muslim prayer position. (No need to alert Homeland Security: it was the Muslim players" equivalent of crossing themselves like Christian athletes do in thanks to God for their good luck!) Back home, the rest of Egypt is going to need a few more, longer prayers than that. Egyptians are in a pessimistic mood. At halftime, I texted an Egyptian friend, "Go Egypt!" to congratulate him on the stunning 3-0 lead thus far. His response: "Unbelievable, but it"s not over yet."


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